August 6 – Artificial Intelligence and the man-god?

August 6, 2020 Randy Bushey

~by Randy Bushey
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm2:2,3).

From Genesis to Revelation the Bible laments the misguided and ultimately self-destructive human drive to break free of God-imposed restrictions, limitations and boundaries – the protective guardrails of life.

But here’s a contemporary twist to the age-old God-defying objective: some observers are positing that technological enhancements, bio-engineering and artificial intelligence will in the (near?) future produce artificial life and super (natural?) intelligence.

Consequently, the conquering of human death is within reach!

Ongoing, never-ending, eternal life will be available to all – at least to those who can afford it.

And God will be rendered obsolete, out-dated, and redundant.

To think this through, one must carefully distinguish fact from science-fiction. (And in this arena, it’s increasingly difficult to identify and categorize!)

Originally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) – a term coined in the 1950s – was rooted in science and engineering, the making of “intelligent machines”.

Now AI encompasses the entire scope of scientific technology supporting the goal of creating human-like intelligence.

We live with multiple and diverse examples:
• the Google Mini on our kitchen counter alternately plays Christian worship music, converts ounces to kilograms, and tells jokes to our grand-children.
• Tesla self-driving vehicles have to date logged over 3 billion miles.
• a team at MIT has programmed a patient’s smartwatch to recognize and report seizures – before they occur.
• facial recognition software not only looks at the geometry of features, but now analyzes the fine texture of your skin converting that unique data to a mathematical space thereby enhancing accuracy and identification.
• algorithms that Amazon or Facebook use to promote products or cue ads that align with your personal historical purchases, buying patterns, unique interests.
• autonomous, self-directed but lethal weapons systems created with the capacity to independently search for and engage targets in the air, on land, on water, under water, or in space.

But those illustrations reflect only the infancy of AI’s potential as increased investment is moving the yardsticks rapidly downfield.

Engineers study human reasoning and thinking together with human behaviour, with the projected outcome of creating computers and software that will imitate – and vastly improve upon – the processes of the human mind.

But many of those working – and investing – in the field are not satisfied with the manufacturing of human-like intelligence.

Medical professionals are often drawn to the vocation because of their compassionate devotion to help the sick, the injured, and the aging.

However, in more recent times a new direction has emerged: medicine devoted to enhancing the lives of otherwise healthy people.

In this category are procedures that are common, like administering vaccinations to make us less prone to disease.

Others are targeted for those who are healthy and wealthy: surgically replacing missing hair; injections and implants to change the shape of a face or body; surgical or medication enhancements making subjects more fit or athletic; or other ground-breaking medical interventions to enhance beauty, intelligence, and strength.

Consequently, serious players have declared that quantum medical/biological advances will soon realize what only a few years ago would have been decidedly sci-fi: super-human intelligence that is above and beyond any functioning human mind that has ever existed.

Humanity 2.0.

And here’s the dystopian world that contemporary AI observers, scientists and philosophers are projecting: the ability to substantially upgrade human life, to reach for the divine.

It’s what one writer coined as homo deus, Latin for man-god, or man becoming god.

Others have claimed that the 21st century will be the era of trans-humanism: using technology to augment our bodies and minds and transitioning human life to that empowered and experienced by a combination of body, mind, and technological hardware.

That may sound fictitious, but we’re part-way down that road with artificial titanium knees and hips; next-generation pacemakers providing a precision-timed therapeutic dose of electric current to the heart within the patient’s unique cardiac cycle to regulate the heartbeat rhythm; and ocular implants, a hearing mechanism that bypasses the sonic receptor within the ear to send audio signals directly to the brain.

But the transhumanist dream envisions highly imaginative, frenetically-paced progress down this futuristic super-highway: the fusion of humanity and automation would increasingly rely more heavily on the technology component so that pesky human biological limitations could be eradicated.

Annoying human boundaries.

Like death.

Has it really come to that?

Is death merely a medical/technical problem awaiting a scientific solution?

This is the vision of homo deus.

Is that next step, man becoming god, on the imminent horizon?

This has led many to wonder, can God can survive science? Is it rational for modern mankind to continue to worship a Being better suited to a distant, more superstitious, anachronistic and far less technologically-advanced bygone era??

Or, are we interpreting the data correctly?

Oxford mathematician Dr. John Lennox doesn’t think God is in danger of being rendered irrelevant by scientific progress. Rather his work has “led me seriously to question whether atheism will survive science.”

Lennox cautions that “media coverage of AI tends to over-dramatize results and be overly optimistic or overly fearful”.

Dr. Rosalind Picard of MIT Media Laboratory, a world-recognized expert in AI – and Christ-follower – throws a wet-blanket on much of the exaggerated hype surrounding AI and software-learning algorithms, by observing that to this point the technology is “no more alive than Microsoft Word”.

So, what are we to understand as we consider the status of AI and how it impacts on what it means to be human?

The Psalmist King David never encountered AI having lived 3000 years ago. But he predicted the prevailing attitude of some AI enthusiasts, a brash defiance observed in the pronouncements of anti-theists in his own world as seen in the words of Psalm 2 above. (Acts 4:25 confirms David as author.)

Mankind conniving against the Lord and His Anointed One as the nations rage and the peoples plot… Seeking liberation by denying God and rejecting the restraints of the One who demands accountability to His standard of perfect righteousness.

Those who echo the cry that has reverberated against the Tri-Une God through every age of humanity: Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.

Takeaway: Thanks be to God for the reality of the Gospel!

Christ came to earth – the original, true, unique God-Man – to die for the failures, shortfalls, rebellion and evil of His people.

This Deus-Homo authentically conquered death.

Not through human technology, but through God-ordained redemption.

To offer eternal life to those responding in repentant faith.

 

~my thinking for this post influenced by the John Lennox book, 2084.

  • graphic by ba1976 on freeimages.com